New Memphis degree program to help fill airline pilot shortage

Published: Aug. 16, 2018 at 7:35 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2018 at 8:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The University of Memphis' newest career path will take its students to new heights, and it comes at a time when the country is having a pilot shortage.

Experts say aging pilots, coupled with the expense of training, have led to some airlines scrambling to fill the vacancies.

"You kind of add all this up, you have a lot of people retiring and not a lot of people coming in and so it's up to people like us at flight schools and universities to build programs to make it more convenient and accessible for individuals get their flight training," Kyle Mullen, with Crew Training International, said.

Three years after Crew Training International (CTI) proposed the idea of creating a four-year commercial aviation degree out of the University of Memphis, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission signed off on the bachelor's program at the end of July. The idea is supported by FedEx CEO Fred Smith.

Students are eager to start their career in the sky.

"Before it was even formally announced, I think I had probably half a dozen students or their family members contacting me already about admission for next academic year," U of M Interim Dean Dr. Joanne Gikas said.

The soft rollout of the degree starts August 27, the first day of the 2018 school year.

The 120-credit-hour program includes 61 hours of aviation classes, mostly taken in Millington at CTI.

Students will take flying lessons three times a week and earn their private pilot license after a semester.

Mullen said the training will open up endless opportunities.

"They are going to have a pick of pretty much every regional airline in the country to go to," he said.

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